Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Green and Orange Soup

It's naptime!  It's naptime!  We haven't had naptime for several days around here.  So I'm celebrating by posting a recipe!  Yeah, I'm weird I know. 

This is a great frugal and healthy meal, especially for all you pregnant ladies out there.  I'm trying to follow the Brewer diet during my pregnancy.  It's the diet recommended in Bradley classes.  It's simple.  Lots of protein, lots of veggies, lots of eggs, lots of dairy.  Really just lots of everything good for you.  But like most Americans I have trouble in the veggie department, especially getting enough leafy green ones and orange ones.  And enough whole grains and protein for Dr. Brewer's satisfaction.  I'm starting to wonder if Dr. Brewer is really my Ukranian grandmother.  I can never eat enough to please her, either.

So to get more veggies, start by roasting a chicken for Sunday supper.  Let's get a good look at that chicken butt:

Yep, that thing's trussed with a paper clip.  And I took a picture and published it I'm so proud of my ingenuity.  Again, I'm weird.  Or else desparate for frugality street cred.  Housewives can be like that sometimes.

Now make a big pot of stock from the carcass.  I like to put it in the crock pot overnight with some onion ends, leafy tops of celery stalks, carrot ends, and half a lemon.  The crock pot method is not Le Cordon Bleu approved, but I'm not making clarified stock for aspics just regular home cooking.  I read on some blog somewhere (sorry I can't credit) to keep two bags in the freezer for stock making ingredients, one for vegetable matter and one for meat bones.  I've been doing that, and it has made a difference in my cooking.  Homemade stock is much better.  And since it's essentially made from garbage, it counts as being free!  So I'm not as stingy with stock in cooking as I used to be.  I've also realized that whole chickens are much more economical than buying just parts, as is buying a bone-in roast of whatever other meat than buying boneless.  One chicken carcass will yield me about a gallon of stock.  I freeze it flat in gallon-size freezer bags, a quart in each bag.  If there's extra it goes in smaller bags with a cup in each. It thaws much faster this way and you can fit a lot more in your freezer.

So now, if you're still with me, the actual recipe:

Green and Orange Soup

In a soup pot, combine:
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup barley
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer covered for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables:
  • peel and dice one small butternut squash
  • slice 8 carrots
  • chop one onion
  • derib and chop one head kale
Add the vegetables to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until vegetables and barley are tender.  Stir in:
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Heat through, season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.  It makes a lot of soup, but it freezes great. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Nursing without a Cover?

This post at Banned from Baby Showers, a natural birthing blog I follow, got me thinking today. Donna is a very straightforward and unapologetic, which is why I like her blog so much. This particular post argues in favor of nursing without a cover. Not being an exhibitionist, but not "hiding" under a big tent either. Nursing obviously in public like this will help to normalize breastfeeding, and help to educate people about breastfeeding. I think this is a key quote about using a cover: "...it is obvious that you are hiding it, so by the very nature of the hiding behavior, it must be shameful or embarrassing."

I both agree and disagree. I'm not nursing currently, but when I was I often felt more obvious nursing in public using a specially made nursing cover, and would prefer to use a burp cloth or receiving blanket if my son would cooperate, or even just my shirt if it were voluminous enough. I would still be "hiding," even more so than with the nursing cover, really. But I was not embarrassed or ashamed to be nursing my son in public. There were those inevitable moments where I would suddenly be exposed and I'd have to make a quick grab for the blanket, but very soon I learned to take those moments in stride. I was just taking care of my baby, and really I wasn't worried about everyone else's opinions. There were times I would not bother with covering up, but those were when I was at home or I really didn't mind if my close females friends and family saw my nipples and knew they wouldn't mind either. The difference between when I nursed "openly" versus covered up had nothing to do with my being ashamed of my body or of breastfeeding. It had everything to do with intimacy.

Really, breastfeeding is a very intimate act. Shelia Kippley, in her book Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, has an entire chapter devoted to in-depth comparisons between the marital act and the act of breastfeeding. When I saw that while I was still pregnant, I thought that was kind of weird. Then I learned that she was absolutely spot on. I think most modern people would agree that sexual intercourse is not shameful, yet most modern people would still prefer to have sex privately! Intimate things by their very nature wish for privacy, to be protected from public witness. Breastfeeding isn't meant for public display. I do think that the "It's no different from feeding a bottle" crowd actually sell nursing short. It's also perfectly natural to feed an older baby solid food, but there is a fundamental difference between spoonfeeding and breastfeeding, and that is the mother's gift of herself, of her body, to her child.

But on the other hand, babies get hungry all the time, and I do feel strongly that hungry babies shouldn't be banished from public life, made to eat in the bathroom (yuck!), or else given bottles. I view public nursing as a necessity. We shouldn't over-sentimentalize or spiritualize breastfeeding. There is a definite virtue in being matter-of-fact about the function of the breast in providing nourishment, and it's not the end of the world to accidentally flash the entire congregation for a moment. Chances are very few people even noticed. While the breast is definitely sexual, breastfeeding women do have the right to expect a little maturity and understanding from the rest of society. And the rest of society has the right to expect breastfeeding women to at least attempt to be discreet.

The pictures in this post were all from this wonderful gallery at Fisheaters.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


168 half square triangles, all pressed and ready to trim and sew together!

But not tonight.  Tonight we're having ice cream.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Domine Non Sum Dignus

"Domine non sum dignus ut interes sub tectum meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea."  ("Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.")

The centurion's words were also part of the Gospel at the Tridentine Mass today.  I didn't get to hear the homily due to a cetain small boy needing to go potty, but just about every homily I've ever heard on this Gospel has been about humility.  Certainly the centurion's humility is amazing, especially for a pagan in a position of authority.  Also his faith, because he did not need to see Christ come to heal his servant to know that it would be done.  Of course we repeat these words at every Mass.  Today what was amazing about them to me is that even though we are so unworthy, the Lord chooses to "enter under our roof" in Holy Communion anyway.

That doesn't seem all that humble, to accept Jesus even though we know full well we aren't worthy of it.  But this is just another one of the paradoxes of our faith.  The most humble of creatures, Mary, accepted the titles Mother of God, Queen of Angels, Queen of the Universe.  Of course she's perfect, but she is still a creature.  As his mother, she had authority over God Himself!  Certainly nobody merits that.  What makes it humility is to accept the will of God--not our own will, but His.  To say "no" to God's will, even if we say in our hearts it is because we are not worthy, is really just pride in disguise.  We are putting our own will over God's.  That was Satan's sin that cast him from Heaven:  "I will not serve."  It is not humility to say, "I can't do such-and-such duty of mine because I am so weak," and then give up trying.  It would be humility to say, "I can't do such-and-such duty on my own but since you have given it to me I will trust you to give me the grace to do it."  If God wants to make me into a saint, as he surely does, then grant me the humility to say His will be done and submit myself to the painful process of purification.  True humility will always lead us to greatness.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 Home Improvement Resolutions Begun!

This is what Ryan and I have been tackling since I've gotten over the stomach flu: 


This is our closet.  Or rather, was. See all those massive holes in the walls where Ryan sledgehammered out the decaying old shelves?  That dismal single-bulb light?  That icky chartruese color the closet had once been?  Well, this is that same closet now:

Lovely, no?  Ever since installing a garbage disposal for my parents over Christmas, Ryan has really been into doing electrical work himself.  This is a long closet, and the light just didn't reach very well to the end.  I was okay with not messing with the light fixture, but the dark end was my side of the closet, so Ryan really wanted it to be bright for me.  Now I have more light in my closet than at my sewing table, and Ryan is exceedingly proud of himself! He installed a switch where the old pull-cord fixture was and hung the track light along the sloping ceiling.

The wire shelves provide a lot more storage than we had. They were a bear to install, however, due to multiple trips to Lowes being needed to get all the pieces that match the right system. Why there are three apparently identical closet systems, all made by the same company, the pieces of which are not at all interchangeable, is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the universe. They were also somewhat expensive. Rubbermaid is sneaky. The shelves are really cheap, but the brackets you have to use to hold them up and all the other sundry pieces/parts are ridiculous.  But by the time you realize the grand total you've already got your shelving cut and are stuck with it.

 Finally, it was necessary to get the three levels of hanging rails along the sloped ceiling to line up precisely so that the shelves would attach, a process that had to be done by trial and error and error and error because not even methodical Ryan could get measurements that exact on our uneven walls.  God bless Anthony's godparents for watching him all day Saturday while we did that.  I am not a patient person, ever.  And I'm pregnant, with all the hormonality that implies.  And we've got even bigger projects coming up.  HGTV take note, you've got a big opportunity for reality TV here!  But we did it. One more look at the finished product:

We were prompted to tackle the closet because of the baby on the way.  This tiny person has prompted a chain reaction of necessary projects so she (I think) can claim the nursery for herself.  This was just the first step, kind of like the little old lady who swallowed a fly.

We had to
1) Redo this closet so
2) We can fit everything inside it so we can
3) Turn the other closet into an "office" so
4) Anthony can claim the office/guest room/random storage for his bedroom so
5) The baby can take the nursery

And the baby naps alone, the baby naps alone, high-ho the dairy-o, the baby naps alone.

So these are our home improvement goals for 2012, at least the part of 2012 before the baby is born!  I'm not really expecting much beyond that, since we'll be wanting to be doing more outdoor things then.  Plus of course having a newborn.  The office-closet is another big electrical project for Ryan, since there is no outlet there for the computer and the wire will have to be run a good distance.  Also another light fixture, but perhaps this one will be easier.  I have the "big kid" room--where the Montessori magic happens--mostly planned, and it requires much sewing which I'd better get going.  I'll share updates as we complete things.

Anthony really is getting to be a big kid!  He got a haircut finally, which makes him look so much older.  Also no more highchair, eating soup with a spoon, and drinking from a regular cup!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sick Day, and Why I Love My Husband

Stomach flu. I was all set to be out and about in the first snowfall today: Children's Adoration, some errands, and babysitting a friend's kids for the afternoon. But instead my dear husband took care of me today. Thankfully he was able to work at home while I was sound asleep until 1:00! I can't remember a time I ever slept that late. And thankfully Anthony was mostly content to play with toys so Daddy was actually able to work! Ryan does NOT like dealing with illness. Once when they were teenagers his sister had a stomach bug and Ryan slept in the car so he didn't have to be near her. But he hugged me for a long time this morning to help me feel better. Not to mention rearranging his work schedule for me. He did go to work this afternoon, but Anthony's napping now, so I'm free to post a picture of them both on the internet before I do something more productive:
Also, this was waiting for me today:
They're sprouting already!!! It's baby salad mix. Our salad was by far our most successful crop this past season. We were harvesting it all spring and fall, up until Thanksgiving. We had saved some seeds in the summer. I was missing our fresh salad, and didn't like buying it at the store. So Ryan suggested just growing some in the basement through the winter. We put this together under a shop light on Saturday. It seems to be working!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I've never been big on New Year's resolutions, but this year I happen to be brimming with all sorts of desires for self-improvement in many different areas. Being a scatter-brained disorganized extraverted person by nature, I need to sort of ponder out loud to you all (all two of you!) about each of them.

I probably have too many things to really have any amount of "focus" on any of them! I know by the end of 2012 I'm not going to be in shape to run a marathon, a concert pianist, speak fluent French, set up the perfect toddler at-home Montessori experience, a master quilter, have a quarter-acre mini farm, or be on the illuminative way of sanctity, but I'd like to be at least closer to each of those than I am now. Progress, not perfection, yes? Also, I think that women, and housewives in particular, tend to be dabblers by nature. I'm reminded once again of this Chesterton quote:

"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets,
labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys,
boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching
morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust
the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large
career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small
career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be
the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a
woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is
minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity
her for its smallness."
We have to do a little bit of everything! At least it's all interesting! I have to run off to meet Ryan for noon Mass now but I will post more on my specific goals later. Blogging more often is one of them, so it's going to happen, I promise!

Monday, January 9, 2012

On the Eternal Consequences of a Dirty Floor

Some days, Mondays especially, it really does seem that "A woman's work is never done." We had a really nice weekend, weather-wise and just a nice weekend at home as a family. My husband worked on digging a raised bed (Yes, in January!), Anthony ran around outside a lot, I made pot roast and apple pie for Sunday supper, and we all just relaxed a bit. And the dirt and residue from this not-much-going-on weekend is all over my kitchen floor! My kitchen must have had a wild party while we were busy watching "A Man for All Seasons." I cleaned it just on Friday. I should take photographic evidence that that floor sometimes DOES look like it! For about five minutes. But it's not just the floor. Weekend evidence is everywhere. I'm sure I'm not alone in this on Monday mornings.

My dream kitchen floor. I like the yellow shoes, too!

The world might point to Mondays for a housewife and say, "See, it's pointless. Everything you do is immediately undone." But isn't all work that way, really? My husband finishes with one set of data, and there is another waiting for him. None of us are ever truly finished working until we die. That's nothing to be depressed over; it's just the nature of things. "Ah yes, but at the end of the month, he brings home a paycheck. You're just treading water." In housework, yes absolutely. If I really were just an unpaid maid and nanny as feminism would have me believe, I would be dissatisfied. I would be happier in a job. This study seems to think that's true!

But really, I'm not a maid with no life. My work is raising souls: Anthony's and the new baby's not to mention Ryan's and my own. Housework and cooking and kissing boo-boos are all just the background for this great work of developing human beings. The work of soul-building is really the only work that does last in eternity. Every architectural wonder, every Fortune 500 company, and every Nobel Prize will one day be gone. It simply won't matter. But it will matter if I was there to teach my son not to snatch books from the little girl at the library (Sorry, Elsa!). It will matter if I discipline my spirit to uncomplainingly clean that kitchen floor yet again. I never said it was glamorous! But it is important, because all these little day-to-day things will all help make our souls into who we will be in eternity. And that's the most important thing of all.